Blog - Building Beginnings

Now we are ten

To celebrate ten years of running Building Beginnings, here are ten of our favourite house history discoveries from our collection:

WheatOur research into the history of a Worcestershire B&B that was requisitioned for food production was featured in a 15-minute feature in ITV’s Heart of the Country programme in 2006. Our 15 minutes of fame.

One mid-19th century tenant of a Herefordshire former coaching inn was William Dew who with his mother Elizabeth Dew were signatories to a bond for £5,000 to fund Guy’s Hospital in London in 1845.

In 1722 the granddaughters of the owner of a Cheshire hunting lodge married two sons of the 1st Duke of St Albans, son of Charles II and Nell Gwynne, and celebrated by roasting an ox in the garden in the depths of December.

matchesIn the 1960s the matches manufacturer Bryant & May bought a Worcestershire farm house as part of a plan to grow poplar trees for matchsticks in several counties including Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The heavy clay soil was good for growing trees and Bryant & May grew 17 different kinds of poplars there for matchsticks.

A tenant of a Shropshire farm, Henry Wilde, was involved in a drunken brawl over the sale of some barley which led to a court appearance. Wilde challenged his adversary Percy Blythe ‘to box with gloves to the finish’. The resulting prize fight was reported in the Shrewsbury Chronicle which recorded Blythe’s victory and included vivid descriptions of the combatants’ injuries.

fairyA Herefordshire mansion was home to magistrates, high sheriffs and Members of Parliament, but also to a founder member of the Alpine Club, an eminent botanist who worked at the National Botanical Gardens at Kew, and a housekeeper who warned against offending the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

One of the earliest tenants of a Shropshire farmhouse had an unusual clause in his lease in 1615 which specified that ‘if the lessor be called to serve in the wars’, the lessee must furnish one able footman with bows and arrows to serve under his leadership.

The architect and landscape designer Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of the village of Portmeirion, was a party to an unusual transaction concerning a former Shropshire pub in 1935. He bought the property for £800 and immediately sold it for £750, making an instant loss of £50, for no apparent reason.

roadworksIn 1850 the entire population St Julian’s parish, Shrewsbury was indicted for failing to keep a section of the public highway of Dogpole in good repair. A resident of a nearby townhouse was one of the signatories to the notice announcing a public meeting to hear their defence.

We discovered an important set of property deeds recording many transactions relating to a Gloucestershire farmhouse between 1627 and 1900. The property has been independently owned for almost its entire life except for a period of approximately 20 years in the early 20th century when it belonged to the Berkeley Castle estate.

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